Mark Forward presents Mark Forward

Tue 18th – Wed 26th August 2015


Louis Shankar

at 10:01 on 24th Aug 2015



It’s hard to find another stand up to compare Mark Forward to. His absurd storytelling style is unique in my personal experience and it had me laughing fairly constantly for an hour. Blurring the lines between reality and imagination, he managed to break the fourth wall of comedy with an invisible hawk. Honestly, I don’t quite know how else to describe it.

No topic was too taboo: from insulting old people and children to a routine about 9/11 (which wasn’t offensive and managed to be hilarious), he pushed the audience to their limits. As with most stand ups, sit in the front row at your own risk; he reacted surprisingly well when nobody did, also joking about the slightly underwhelming, Sunday night crowd.

Spontaneous jibes came easily; it was clear that the show was more than just a rehearsed routine reeled off night after night. Having said that, long stories about fancy hats and small rodents were performed with a finesse that made them consistently funny, instead of merely an extended setup for a punchline.

I struggled to quite understand his onstage persona. He was mostly gravely serious but often broke from this, hiding behind the curtain, having small tantrums. He giggled a lot at his own jokes, struggling to hold his composure during a few of his songs or bits; I couldn’t tell if this was deliberate, if it was part of a character intended to make the whole thing more humorous or if he’d just done one too many shows and the Fringe was getting to him. Either way, I personally found it distracting: his deadly seriousness when describing the social lives of chipmunks was much more effective than his faltering giggles.

I felt much more immersed in the show than with most gigs I’ve seen, committing to the surreal humour and lengthy imaginary anecdotes. I only checked my watch towards the end of the hour, expecting to be less than halfway and slightly disappointed as I realised it was almost over. I left wanting more and will seek Mark Forward out in the future.


Megan Erwin

at 11:33 on 24th Aug 2015



Chipmunks, 911, and fancy hats – what do they all have in common? Nothing really, apart from the fact that they have all at some point captured the mischievous Mark Forward’s imagination and feature as meandering, slightly sinister and utterly hilarious tales in Mark Forward’s new show at the Gilded Balloon.

While Mark Forward has a few one-liners and some excellent audience participation, it is these twisted tales that really make Mark Forward’s show completely unique – and wickedly funny. Mark Forward defies expectations. A physically imposing, bearded man, he can alternate between a soft whisper and a roar in a heartbeat. As he delivers deliberately hair-raising – but hilarious – jokes about how old people should be put down and strangers allowed to hit people’s kids, there’s an impish glint in his eye which suggests he knows exactly what you’re thinking and gently chastises you for being so predictable. Nothing is sacred in this show, but it is saved from being a tiresome tirade against political correctness by Forward’s mischievous grin and occasional chuckle at himself – yes the world is ridiculous, but so is Mark Forward, and luckily he knows it.

Mark Forward’s constant refrain is ‘don’t take this seriously, none of this is real’, and indeed if you can suspend your disbelief for an hour it will make this show much more enjoyable. However, managing to go along with the domestic struggles of a chipmunk family or the pivotal part played by some fancy hats in a family tragedy of Shakespearean proportions is not as hard as it might sound. Forward has a gift with words, and can conjure up a windy autumn night or a dusty convenience store with a few words. As his narratives unfold, he ends up throwing himself back and forth across the stage as he seamlessly becomes each character, contrasting hilariously with his usually lethargic, deadpan delivery. He has an incredible control of timing and tension; even his sips of beer seem perfectly designed to variously create suspense or wind down. The seaming sprawling anarchy of the show belies the fact that Forward is in complete control and knows exactly what he’s doing.

I can imagine that Forward’s teasing of the audience some might find a bit much, insulting the front row for their lack of participation or chastising us for our hide-bound, politically correct ways, but it is so evidently good-natured and playful that it is never uncomfortable.

Forward is a unique – and judging by the number of empty seats, relatively undiscovered – gem of the Fringe, creator of Grimm fairytales of the modern age and dispenser of pearls of wisdom like ‘don’t feed the wildlife’: an education in the bizarre.


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